Tell me something about my son

Excerpt from Memorial by Bryan Washington

Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from the book Memorial by Bryan Washington.

The next morning, before I head to work, Mitsuko says she needs a ride downtown. She’d mailed herself ingredients from Japan to the FedEx building by the Marriott.

So we pull out of the neighborhood, and off I-45, dodging the never-ending construction on Elgin. As I hook a right at a stoplight under the bridge, a disheveled guy in a Rockets sweater sips from a paper bag. He’s seen better days, but the sweater’s brand-new. It’s got the tags and everything.

He nods our way. I nod back. Then the light changes, and we both turn back to our lives.

Tell me something about my son that I don’t know, says Mitsuko.

Well, I say.

But, the thing is, I’ve got nothing.

Mike is irritable.


He does this thing with his tongue.

For the first few months, he’d trace shapes across my back in bed. Whenever I got them right, he’d chew on my shoulder.

Mike knows a little bit of Spanish, I say.

That’s nice, says Mitsuko.

He has to. For his job.

Also, I say, he’s really into food.

Thank you for that, says Mitsuko. Really. You’re a wealth of knowledge.

But tell me, she says, when did you know you were gay?

I take my eyes off the road, nearly swerving onto the sidewalk. Some loiterers in shades hop away from the curb. They flick me off through the rearview window.

Never mind, says Mitsuko.

Sorry, I say, it wasn’t you.

Of course it wasn’t me, says Mitsuko.

We resettle into traffic.

If it helps, she says, I had no idea Mike was that way.

He never told me, says Mitsuko. Or his father. I had friends whose children are gay. Sons who sleep with sons. Girls who sleep with boys and girls.

But not mine, says Mitsuko. I didn’t see it.

And then one day, she says, I just knew. Before he left home, it clicked. Everything finally made sense.

There was nothing to say after that, says Mitsuko. We both understood.

Cruising into the parking garage, we find a spot just across from the elevator. Once I’ve settled the car in park, we sit in the darkness.

What kind of guy did you think your son would end up with, I say.

Is that your real question, says Mitsuko, or are you asking something else?

Are you asking if I thought the man would be Japanese? she asks. Or if I care that you’re Black?

A white dude emerges from the elevator in front of us, looking extremely distressed. He fumbles with his keys for a second. At the sound of his car alarm, his whole body relaxes.

If you put it that way, I say.

Well, says Mitsuko, I didn’t think about that. That wasn’t my business. Isn’t. I’m his mother.

Or are you really asking what I think about you, she says.

Another white guy in a suit unlocks the car beside us. He peeks into my window, frowning above his tie.

I’d tell you, says Mitsuko, but you might drive us into the wall.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Memorial – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

A funny, sexy, profound dramedy about two young people at a crossroads in their relationship and the limits of love.

Benson and Mike are two young guys who live together in Houston. Mike is a Japanese American chef at a Mexican restaurant and Benson’s a Black day care teacher, and they’ve been together for a few years — good years — but now they’re not sure why they’re still a couple. There’s the sex, sure, and the meals Mike cooks for Benson, and, well, they love each other.

But when Mike finds out his estranged father is dying in Osaka just as his acerbic Japanese mother, Mitsuko, arrives in Texas for a visit, Mike picks up and flies across the world to say goodbye. In Japan he undergoes an extraordinary transformation, discovering the truth about his family and his past. Back home, Mitsuko and Benson are stuck living together as unconventional roommates, an absurd domestic situation that ends up meaning more to each of them than they ever could have predicted. Without Mike’s immediate pull, Benson begins to push outwards, realizing he might just know what he wants out of life and have the goods to get it.

Both men will change in ways that will either make them stronger together, or fracture everything they’ve ever known. And just maybe they’ll all be okay in the end. Memorial is a funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you’re supposed to be, and the limits of love.

Copyright © 2020 by Bryan Washington.

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.

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